Vegetable Roti


This dish came about as a result of a lovely day spent with my husband. We had taken that Friday off to go to see the Van Gogh exhibit. That morning we had awoken to some much welcomed rain after this drought we call summer. I’m embarrassed to say that we treated ourselves to a very cheap breakfast (thanks to coupons received in the mail) and enjoyed it on our front porch, wrapped in sweaters, as we watched the rain come down. There is something so very romantic about the rain. It was a beautiful morning. Breakfast outdoors was nice, but got us to the gallery later than originally planned. Needless to say that the line-up to view the exhibit was much too long. However, the exhibit did not disappoint and was well worth the wait and the crowds! I know Van Gogh for his still lifes and irises, but the exhibit displayed an array of paintings showcasing Van Gogh’s range. “Couple Walk in the Woods“, simultaneously haunting and inviting, is forever etched in my mind, while “Road Menders at Saint-Remy” and its use of colour reminded me of Tom Thomson’s work. From there we picked up some of our favourite coffee (Ideal Coffee) in the market, finally picked up our wedding wall hangings and started to head for home.

By this time, it was getting late and we were getting hungry. Since I don’t cook on Friday nights (not even when I have the day off), my husband proposed I try the vegetable roti at Mugena Enterprises. He is well acquainted with its food from Ottawa’s BluesFest. Willing to give it a try, we made our way there. It’s a modest little family owned restaurant attached to a grocery store. There were two other parties there waiting for food when we arrived and countless others coming in and out picking up take-out orders. It was obvious it was a local favourite. My husband had the jerk chicken and I of course had the only vegetarian option available, the vegetable roti and must say, I was pleasantly impressed. You could tell it was homemade, simple, but absolutely delicious! The vegetable curry consisted solely of chickpeas and potatoes and it was served with a side salad. If you haven’t tried this place, I highly recommend it! I did not depart before picking up some Jamaican spicy curry powder (fully intending to replicate this dish) and bulla cakes, of course.

I was so impressed that when we got home, I set out to learn about making vegetable roti. As impressed as I was with Mugena’s version, I was determined to up the amount of veggies in the curry. The recipe I found and used as a base had both a vegetarian and meat option, so I took what I liked from both plus added a few things and changed some others. The combination of butternut squash, potato, chick peas, and peas is delightful and much more tantalizing than a potato/chick pea combination. The butternut squash, in addition to a healthy serving of vegetables, brings a subtle sweetness and together with the fresh thyme and cilantro make this dish exciting! The curry stands alone (with or without the roti) and would be equally nice served over a bed of brown rice. If you are not adventurous enough to make your own roti, frozen ones are available. If you can’t find frozen roti, tortillas could be substituted. The dish was served garnished with a hot sauce made locally without vinegar; the acidity comes from star fruit. I find that hot sauces without vinegar complement vegetables dishes better because they are less vulgar. My husband and I enjoy spicy food, so this recipe is spicy. Adjust accordingly to your own liking. If using the scotch bonnet, be careful when handling it. It is an extremely hot pepper. In my next version, an autumn rendition, I will substitute the broth with coconut milk and make pumpkin the main attraction. Yes, the dish is so good that I’m already thinking about the next time. In fact, I doubled the roti recipe anticipating a repeat. We have enough roti in the freezer for the next occasion. The version after that will substitute the curry powder with jerk seasoning instead. The dish is hearty, warm, and inviting, so much so that my husband and I ate it three times that week.

This is a quick and easy weeknight meal (if roti are pre-made/bought).

Serves 6

Ingredients:

 Roti:
 Flour, white  4 cups
 Flour, spelt  4 cups
 Baking powder  3 tbsp
 Salt  2 tsp
 Jamaican spicy curry powder  2 tsp
 Garlic powder  2 tsp
 Turmeric  1 tsp
 Oil, Canola  1/2 cup
 Water  2 cups
 Oil, Canola  (for cooking)
 Vegetable Curry:
 Oil, Canola  3 tbsp
 Onion, small, chopped  1
 Garlic, cloves, crushed  4
 Butternut squash, cubed small  4 cups
 Potato, large (half cubed small, half      shredded)  1
 Pepper, scotch bonnet, finely chopped, seeds removed (optional)  1
 Jamaican spicy curry powder  2 tbsp
 Coriander, dry  2 tsp
 Hot sauce (vinegar-free) (optional)  1 tbsp
 Thyme, sprigs, fresh  6-8
 Broth, vegetable  2 cups
 Salt
 Chickpeas  2 cups
 Peas  1 cup
 Cilantro, fresh, chopped  1/2 cup
 Hot sauce (vinegar-free) (optional)  For serving/garnishing

Directions:

  1. To make the roti, combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.
  2. Gradually add the oil and water while mixing and kneading the dough. Knead the dough for 5 minutes. Set the dough aside for 15 minutes.
  3. Divide the dough into 12 equal-sized balls. Flatten each slightly and roll out into 8 inch squares.
  4. To cook the roti, place a little bit of oil in a skillet over high heat until it sizzles. Reduce the heat to medium and place the roti in the pan. Cook for 2 minutes, until the crust is light brown. Turn with a wide spatula and continue cooking for another minute. Repeat the process with the remaining rotis. Set aside.
  5. To make the vegetable curry, place the oil in a medium pot over medium heat.
  6. Add onion and garlic and sauté for 3-4 minutes.
  7. Add the butternut squash, potato, and scotch bonnet and sauté for 2 minutes.
  8. Add the curry powder, coriander, and hot sauce and sauté for 2 minutes.
  9. Add broth, salt, and thyme and cook for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are soft but not mushy.
  10. Add the chick peas and peas and cook another 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  11. Remove from heat. Using a hand blender, puree one-tenth of the curry and stir well (this helps thicken the stew without adding flour or other thickening agents).
  12. Stir in cilantro. Set the filling aside.
  13. To assemble the roti, working with one roti at a time, place a half cup of vegetable curry filling in the center of the roti. Fold long sides over each other, so that they meet in the centre. Do the same for the short sides. Flip roti so that the folds are on the bottom.
  14. Place roti on a plate, garnish with hot sauce (without vinegar), and serve with a side salad or veggies of choice. Serve immediately.

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